Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 3, last updated 6/25/2013
36
Figure 3.43 Guitar tablature for melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
3.2.3 Chord Progression
The most abstract method of encoding musical data is probably the chord progression. Consider
the following chord progression for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”:
C F C
Twinkle, twinkle little star
F C G C
How I wonder what you are.
C F C G
Up above the world so high,
C F C G
Like a diamond in the sky,
C F C
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
F C G C
How I wonder what you are.
A trained musician who is already somewhat familiar with the tune should be able to
extract the entire song as shown in Figure 3.37 from this chord progression. You may have
witnessed an example of this if you've ever seen a live band that seemed able to play anything
requested on the spur of the moment. Most good “gigging bands can do this. Certainly, their
ability to do this in part comes from a good familiarity with popular music, but that doesn’t mean
they’ve memorized all those songs ahead of time. Musicians call this approach “faking it” and at
most bookstores you can purchase “Fake Books” that contain hundreds of chord progressions for
songs. With the musical data so highly compressed, it is not unheard of for a fake book to have
well over 1000 songs in a size that can fit quite comfortably in a small backpack.
In Section 3.1.6.2 we learned about intervals and in Section 3.1.6.3 we learned about
chords. Chord progressions are a repeating sequence of chords at musical intervals. Music is
built with chord progressions. If you know what chord is being used at any
given time in the song, you should also know which notes you could play for
that part of the song. In the case of the chord progression for “Twinkle, Twinkle
Little Star,” we begin with the tonic C major chord. Then we move to the
perfect fourth, an F major chord. Occasionally, we use the perfect fifth, a G
major chord. This is called a I-IV-V chord progression. Many popular songs are
built from this chord progression. In the simplest form, you could play these
chords on the keyboard as you sing the melody and you should have something
Max Demo:
Music
Improvisation
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